I got Hazel out of her car seat, and could feel the warmth of the pre-spring air surrounding us. After an unusually cold February for British Columbians, it was a welcome change. As I held Hazel on my hip, I remembered I could put her down and let her stand next to me… it’s the little things like this that I keep forgetting about since Hazel got her AFOs (ankle foot orthosis). With them, she can not only stand comfortably next to me wherever we are, but she can WALK.
I shut the door, and took Hazel’s hand as we began to walk down the trail to meet April. Hazel was just smitten with the idea of walking down a gravel trail and holding Mama’s hand. This was a first… in all her time here on earth, she had never been able to walk down an outdoor trail and experience the world at her own level, the way she wanted to experience it.
When we reached April halfway down the path, I felt like I had known her forever! April is so sweet, and so easygoing and Hazel instantly took to her - while of course, expressing her displeasure that I had stopped walking for too long to chat which meant less exploring for her.
This was the day Hazel learned SHE could decide where to go… and in that moment I remembered a quote from one of our favourite Dr. Seuss books… a quote that I ALWAYS emphasized to Hazel when we would read it together, “And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.” and she did go. She stopped to pick up every rock, and every stick - and when she saw the mountains she pointed in awe, let out a big sigh and said “mata” (for mountains), a word I never even knew she knew how to say, let alone actually knowing what mountains are.
We walked along hand in hand while Hazel saw the world through new eyes, and occasionally she would tug on my hand saying “mama, mama” and as I would crouch down next to her being sure to be at her level - to see exactly what it is she was seeing, she would hold out a rock - always making sure to place it squarely in the palm of my hand. With each stick she would pick it up, waived it around and exclaim “bop bop boo” for bippity boppity boo.
This girl, I swear… she has taught me to see the world in ways I never imagined. She has pushed me to my breaking point in so many more ways than one, but she has given me the gift of seeing the world through her eyes, and she has brought us more joy than we ever imagined possible.
And that day down along the river, April was there to capture the first time Hazel walked down a gravel trail… the first time Hazel really, really understood how to walk. April captured the incredible reality of AFOs and how they have given Hazel so much more than just a piece of plastic to correct her feet, they have given her a new world that is her to take on, and in the process she allowed me to remembered to get down to her level and see the world as she sees it.
Thank you April for such special images. I can’t possibly express my love for these photos and what a keepsake they’ve become for us.
You can find April on Instagram as @aprildawn.photo and on her website at www.aprildawnphotography.ca